Monday, November 13, 2006

Good Things Come in Small Packages: Vermont Leads the Way in Washington D.C.

This is the view that I had as I stood on a chair at the back of the Adirondack Ballroom at the Wyndham Hotel in Burlington on election night 2007. Vermont was one of the first states to declare victory for a shift in power in Washington. Polls closed on November 7th in VT at 7 P.M. Many Vermonters, even those who are not farmers, seem to follow the agricultural schedule of getting up at the crack of dawn so volunteers, staff, and supporters of Bernie Sanders, Peter Welch, Scudder Parker, and Matt Dunne, were already toasting to the victory of independent (a.k.a. socialist) Bernie Sanders as the senator-elect and Peter Welch U.S. House Representative-elect while other states were still biting their fingernails. Vermonters still kept an eye on the T.V. screens as they rooted for democratic victory in other states. A huge round of applause swept through the room when the screen announced that Pennsylvania's extremely conservative Rick Santorum had lost the election to Casey.
I was fortunate to volunteer on all of these campaigns at some point in the past six months. Having been away from Vermont for several years, this was a great way to take the pulse of the state and find out what Vermonters are thinking. Vermonters pride themselves on being independent and not voting for a party, but rather for a person. As I spoke to people around the state, it was clear that many voters were keenly aware of the role the Republican party has played in supporting a war based on false information, pushing more and more Americans into poverty, and threatening Americans' civil liberties with the patriot act.
While Bernie Sanders is an independent, he chose to openly endorse democratic candidates in this election, which brought the crisis in Washington to the attention of independent thinkers around the state. Of course, not all Vermonters are interested in change. During the final days leading up to the election, I knocked on one door as I was canvassing, and was greeted with fear of change. When I began to engage this individual in a conversation about Bernie Sanders, he said that, "Bernie should start to talk like a Vermonter." For those of you who have not had the pleasure of hearing Bernie Sanders speak, he still has an accent that is more reminiscent of Flatbush than of Burlington. To me, this accent is a wonderful reminder that Vermonters are a group of people who, while their families may not have originated in this state, have made a very conscious choice to make this their home. Vermont, composed of these independent thinkers, is a leader. As Bernie Sanders said, in his victory speech, when someone in the crowd exclaimed, "You did it!", he responded, "I didn't do it, we did it." Vermonters made their decision on November 7th. Bernie Sanders will be the next Senator from Vermont and Peter Welch will be the next representative in the US congress.

Citizens throughout the United states spoke with the their vote. The democrats have regained control of the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. The voice of the American people was so loud that Donald Rumsfeld stepped down from office. Ahh, democracy at work. Let's not let the momentum die. Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in the War in Iraq and has become one of the strongest anti-war and Anti-Bush activists in the country wrote in a piece entitle, "Another Open Letter to George," her charge for the American people.

"After the 110th Democratic Congress is sworn in, we the people with all the power will be out in force in the halls and offices of our elected officials to make sure that our mandate for change is carried out. Gone are the days when we will permit our elected officials to bow before the special interests and allow the war machine to run our country. Here are the days where we the poeple with the mandate will enforce our mandate."

Cindy Sheehan summed it up beautifully. To read the complete letter by Cindy Sheehan, go to


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